Parables of Jesus
The secrets of the Kingdom have been given to disciples (adherents), but not to others. God’s sovereign plan is to hide the kingdom from those that fail to recognize Jesus as our savior (Matt 13: 10-17). Following are the main parables of Jesus and their explanations:
The sower (Matt 13: 1-9). The parable emphasizes the many obstacles the Kingdom message encounters as well as its rich yield from the good soil (faithful servants). The enemies of genuine discipleship are apparent; the flesh, the world, and the devil. Only genuine believers go on to bear spiritual fruits. The parable is well explained by Jesus. The end game is to be with our Lord after death. Everything else is merely a distraction. We must live, and indeed we must do as the living do, however our focus is on where we are going and not where we are. The desire to be with Him will automatically make us follow the narrow path towards him.
The wheat and weeds. The parable indicates that the wicked and righteous will exist together for the time being. Satan mixes bad seed into good seed, in an attempt to corrupt the entire crop. Only at judgment will God separate the two. This is the way of the world today; the two go hand in hand. We are however asked to be salt and light in our communities, so as to attract gentiles and lackluster Christians. As Christians, we must seek each other out and lean on each other for support and it is why being part of a Christian community is so very important. As human beings we are social and have an innate need to be with others. Being part of a Christian community ensures that you mingle with like-minded people who are also your support system. Participate in church activities and thus meet like-minded people. Much as we must remain salt and light for the wider community, you also need the support of your Christian community.
The mustard seed and leaven (Matthew 13:31-33).These parables make the point that something extremely small can grow into something very large and influential, just as Jesus and his followers would begin a world changing movement. There is no such thing as too small or inconsequential. In everything you do, follow the tenets of Jesus, no matter how inconsequential it may appear. We must be salt and light with every opportunity we get. I suppose, the converse is also true. Sin can start in a very benign way, but eventually become a whale of a problem. The moral is thus to deal with sin immediately it rears its head, both in your heart and in the community.
The hidden treasure and costly pearls (Matt 13: 44-46). Knowledge of the kingdom and its secrets is priceless. Before I came to understand more about Jesus, I always thought that the secrets of the world, and life in it were probably locked up somewhere in a book in the Vatican or some other ancient institution. In time, as you appreciate Jesus’ teachings you start realizing that the secrets are right there for the taking in the gospels and all that’s required, beyond understanding is actual practice. Christianity and Christian living is very experiential; you can never fully comprehend Jesus teachings without living the teachings of Christ.
The net. Similar to the wheat and tares. There will be a reckoning come the end, where everyone will account for their actions while on earth.
The Kingdom scribes. The New Kingdom scribes will be able to instruct others accurately in Gods ways. In a manner of speaking this website is part of the new kingdom scribes as is everyone keen on sharing Jesus teachings with the world. You as the new children of the Kingdom, must be ready at any time to explain His teachings. The new teaching is also applicable to the parable of the new wine skins and how to fix tears in cloth. We are the refinement of the law; we preach the spirit of the law as Jesus teachings intended; mercy for sinners; compassion for our enemies; concern for gentiles; a love of all neighbors and so on.
The vineyard workers (Matt 20: 1-16). Following Jesus’ discussion about gaining eternal life, the parable re-emphasizes God’s grace. While God is always just, He is often gracious to the least deserving. We should not be envious because of Gods generosity. God will accept you into the Kingdom, even from a confession at the very end inspite of the kind of life one has lead. God has mercy for all, even to the very end. Being righteous from the outset, and choosing righteousness at the end will lead to the same reward.
It’s natural to feel some resentment if one has been righteous throughout one’s life; you would expect a larger reward than those who come at the end. Jesus tells us not to be resentful, but as his servants we should celebrate whenever anyone is rescued. It’s not easy to accept, but he asks that we do.
I find this teaching outside of the realm of human thought. Surely, you are paid for what you put in, correct? How can a repentant gangster get the same reward as a pious nun or saint for that matter? In my human thinking, I subscribe to the notion that the Lord was referring only to entry into the Kingdom. We all gain entry, however as can be expected in any Kingdom, some will be lower and others higher. In my case, even the position of ablutions/toilets cleaner is more than generous.
The Prodigal son is also very similar. The prodigal son is immediately restored to his former place along with a banquet in his favor. The elder brother is resentful, having been a dutiful son all his life. The elder brother’s reaction is the one I would expect from the majority of us. We are however instructed to exercise mercy. If we fail to be merciful, how can we expect mercy? It’s not easy to accept, but Jesus asks that we do.
The two sons (Matt 21:28-32). In this parable the father represents God, the rebellious son represents the current Jewish leadership and the obedient son represent those who follow Jesus. The surprise in the story is that the tax collectors and the prostitutes are accepting Jesus and entering the Kingdom ahead of the religious leaders, who rejected both John and Jesus.
The wicked tenants (Matt 21:33-46). The landowner represents God who has carefully cultivated his vineyard Israel. The farmers represent the Jewish leadership to whom God has entrusted his people. God has sent various servants, the prophets, to collect fruit, but they have all been mistreated. The landowner, then sends his son Jesus, and the farmers kill him, previewing what will soon happen to him. When the owner returns, he will avenge his sons murder and give the vineyard to other tenants (namely us, the gentiles), who will produce fruit.
The wedding banquet (Matt 21: 1-14). The Kings guests give lame excuses about attending. The King enraged, sends his armies to destroy them; a symbol of the coming judgment of the Jewish leadership and Jerusalem. Servants are sent to look for all the people they can find (gentiles) to the wedding feast. The man not wearing the correct attire represents the gentiles that fail to follow in the teachings of the kingdom….”Many are called but few are chosen”. Those without a relationship with the king will be thrown out.
The lost sheep, lost coin and lost son (prodigal son) (Luke 15:1-32): God diligently and lovingly pursues sinners as the parables of the lost coin, prodigal son and lost sheep illustrate. Our sins can never exhaust the grace of God. He will always welcome repentant children. In the story of the prodigal son, the older son represents the righteous. These should never presume on God’s grace or be resentful because of Gods mercy. God comes for both sinners and “self-righteous sinners”. We are all undeserving, but His grace frees us all!
The shrewd manager; The rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 1-31): The things of the world, mammon, are best employed in the aim of furthering Gods Kingdom. We are encouraged to use mammon wisely to both serve God and thus fill our treasury in heaven. Jesus commends the shrewd manager, not for theft, but for the foresight he used, knowing that he would loose his job. Christ wants Christians to use foresight in their journey towards heaven. They need to use foresight to grow their heavenly bank accounts with acts of compassion, mercy and love (even using mammon).
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus further illustrates the importance of using mammon to serve God. The rich man suffers for not lifting a finger to help those in need. Lazarus suffered all his life and received no help from those in plenty. The roles are reversed in death. The rich man begs to send a warning to his relatives, but he is told that if they did not listen to Moses and the prophets, even he who rises from the dead will be ignored (a reference to Christ himself). I urge you to use mammon to secure a place for yourself in heaven, and teach the same to all around you. As Christians we have no choice but to be generous with our possessions.
The dutiful servant (Luke 17:1-19): It shows the right heart attitude at all times. We are the servants of the Lord, and should remain steadfast to him in anticipation of His return.
The persistent widow (Luke 18: 1-8): It encourages us to pray even in the midst of significant opposition to our Christian walk in a society that looks down upon Christians. Our heavenly father hears us.
The Pharisee and Tax collector (Luke 18: 9-30): Warns us to be careful about self-righteousness and unfair judgment. True righteousness cannot be separated from genuine humility which is childlike.